Red ginger (Zingiber officinale var. Rubrum) is a variety of ginger (Zingiber officinale) which is widely distributed in Asia, but native to Indonesia. It is so called red ginger because of the reddish yellow color of its rhizome. Like other types of ginger, red ginger has an ancient history of use in medicine (alleviating several health ailments), food and cosmetics (1).
Red ginger is rich in several flavonoids and phenolic compounds like gingerols, zingerones and monoterpenes, that all account for its beneficial biological activities in the body. Research studies have reported a higher concentration of these chemical constituents in red ginger compared to the other types of ginger. This makes red ginger more potent, the reason it has a long history of use in Indonesian medicine (2).
Benefits of red ginger
1. Antimicrobial activity. Red ginger has been reported to both prevent growth and cause the death of bacteria and fungi species like Bacillus subtilis and Staphylococcus aureus. It has been used effectively in treating infectious oral microbes like Candida albicans, in synergy with conventional antimicrobials (3). Also, these antimicrobial activities make them relevant as natural preservatives in the food industry as they have been used efficiently to preserve foods like milk and milkfish (4).
2. Lowers blood sugar levels. Red ginger inhibits the enzymes α-amylase and α-glucosidase that breakdown saccharides (carbohydrate sugars) thereby reducing the amount of sugar absorbed in the blood (5). Thus, red ginger extracts have been used successfully in the control of hyperglycemia in patients with type 2 diabetes in several research studies (6).
3. Antioxidant activity. The antioxidant potency of red ginger is attributed to its high phenolic content. These phenolic compounds capture very reactive and unstable free radicals, that cause excessive oxidation reactions and destroy cells and lead to oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is implicated in the onset of many neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s disease (7).
Additionally, the antioxidant activities of red ginger preserve the integrity of the skin, slowing down aging, and promoting rapid healing of wounds, hence its inclusion in cosmetic products (8)
4. Fights cancer and tumors. Vanilloids in red ginger hinder the proliferation of cancer cells in humans (9). Red ginger also inhibits angiogenesis (formation of new blood vessels) of epithelial cells which is a crucial process in tumor migration (10).
5. Fights hypertension. Gingerols and shogaols in red ginger show antihypertensive activities by stimulating the release of nitric oxide and prostacyclin which all have a vasodilating effect (widens the blood vessels) easing blood flow (11).
1. Zhang, S., Kou, X., Zhao, H., Mak, K.-K., Balijepalli, M. K., & Pichika, M. R. (2022). Zingiber officinale var. rubrum: Red Ginger’s Medicinal Uses. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 27(3), 775. doi:10.3390/molecules27030775
2. Ghasemzadeh, A., Jaafar, H. Z. E., & Rahmat, A. (2010). Antioxidant activities, total phenolics and flavonoids content in two varieties of Malaysia young ginger (Zingiber officinale Roscoe). Molecules (Basel, Switzerland), 15(6), 4324–4333. doi:10.3390/molecules15064324
3. Sukandar, E. Y., Kurniati, N. F., Wikaningtyas, P., & Agprikani, D. (2016). Antibacterial interaction of combination of ethanolic extract of Zingiber officinale var rubrum rhizome, Boesenbergia pandurata rhizome, and Stevia rebaudiana leaves with certain antibiotics against infectious mouth microbial. Asian J. Pharm. Clin. Res, 9, 311–314.
4. Krisanti, E., Astuty, R. M., & Mulia, K. (2017). Microencapsulation of oleoresin from red ginger (Zingiber officinale var. Rubrum) in chitosan and alginate for fresh milk preservatives. Author(s).
5. Adedayo, B. C., Ademiluyi, A. O., Oboh, G., & Akindahunsi, A. A. (2012). Interaction of aqueous extracts of two varieties of Yam tubers (Dioscorea spp) on some key enzymes linked to type 2 Diabetes in vitro: Yam extracts inhibits α-amylase and α-glucosidase. International Journal of Food Science & Technology, 47(4), 703–709. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2621.2011.02896.x
6. Almasdy, D., Martini, R. D., & Arman, E. (2013). The effect of dried red ginger powder Zingiber officinale var rubrum) on patients with type 2 diabetes. Ind. Complementary Ther. Nat. Disasters, 13, 87–94.
7. Pizzino, G., Irrera, N., Cucinotta, M., Pallio, G., Mannino, F., Arcoraci, V., … Bitto, A. (2017). Oxidative stress: Harms and benefits for human health. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2017, 8416763. doi:10.1155/2017/8416763
8. Supu, R. D., Diantini, A., & Levita, J. (2019). RED GINGER (Zingiber officinale var. rubrum): ITS CHEMICAL CONSTITUENTS, PHARMACOLOGICAL ACTIVITIES AND SAFETY. FITOFARMAKA: Jurnal Ilmiah Farmasi, 8(1), 23–29. doi:10.33751/jf.v8i1.1168
9. Ghasemzadeh, A., Jaafar, H. Z. E., & Rahmat, A. (2015). Optimization protocol for the extraction of 6-gingerol and 6-shogaol from Zingiber officinale var. rubrum Theilade and improving antioxidant and anticancer activity using response surface methodology. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 15(1). doi:10.1186/s12906-015-0718-0
10. Kim, E.-C., Min, J.-K., Kim, T.-Y., Lee, S.-J., Yang, H.-O., Han, S., … Kwon, Y.-G. (2005). -Gingerol, a pungent ingredient of ginger, inhibits angiogenesis in vitro and in vivo. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 335(2), 300–308. doi:10.1016/j.bbrc.2005.07.076
11. Razali, N., Dewa, A., Asmawi, M. Z., Mohamed, N., & Manshor, N. M. (2020). Mechanisms underlying the vascular relaxation activities of Zingiber officinale var. rubrum in thoracic aorta of spontaneously hypertensive rats. Journal of Integrative Medicine, 18(1), 46–58. doi:10.1016/j.joim.2019.12.003